The businessman behind the Dubai-based rapper Two Tone

Rachid Ben Messaoud, aka Dubai-based rap artist, Two Tone, is also a successful entrepreneur with a string of souvenir shops in the UAE and Singapore.

Rapper-entrepreneur Rachid Ben Messaoud is planning on using his chain of souvenir shops to help promote his music career. Pawan Singh / The National
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Your teenage son or daughter probably knows him by his stage name, Two Tone.

But Rachid Ben Messaoud, a Dubai-based rap artist, is also a successful entrepreneur with a string of souvenir shops in the UAE and Singapore.

The 38 year-old was living with his family in Holland, where he ran his own events company, when he started visiting Dubai in 2007.

“Everyone has heard about the glamorous stories, the riches and the lifestyle out here,” says Mr Ben Messaoud, who was born in Holland but whose family is originally from Morocco.

“The first time I came to Dubai I fell in love. There is nothing like Dubai anywhere else in the world.”

A friend had been offered an opportunity to buy the Middle East rights to the Robin Ruth fashion tourist franchise and they decided to go into business together.

He concentrated on the company at first, opening a stall in The Dubai Mall just before the financial crisis in 2008. “We even grew during the crisis because tourism wasn’t affected,” he says.

The Dubai Mall stall took off, so they added a shop by the centre’s metro stop when it opened in late 2012. Other outlets followed in Deira City Centre and Madinat Jumeirah. Robin Ruth Middle East has since also opened stores in Abu Dhabi and Singapore.

“We started doing business with Atlantis Hotel, for which we customise and make … souvenirs. We also make souvenirs for Burj Khalifa At The Top and we work for Jumeirah Group. There are a lot of hotels we provide products for but they are customised, so they have the hotel’s name on them.”

So why the switch from retail to rap?

Mr Ben Messaoud says producing music had always been an ambition, but he wanted to become financially independent before he tried his luck so he could afford to finance his recording, videos and promotion.

He reached that point two years ago.

His two business partners agreed to take care of the company, allowing the entrepreneur time to concentrate on his music, which took off in ways he didn’t expect. “I just started making a song and putting it out on YouTube, putting it out on Facebook and all that. I saw there was a lot of interest, a lot of people liked it so I started making more songs and all of a sudden I went to Morocco to promote myself not knowing that I was a celebrity over there. That was funny,” he says. “So then I started doing promotion in newspapers, magazines, doing shows. Now I’m one of the biggest stars in Morocco.”

He came back to Dubai, where he wasn't promoting himself because he was focusing on other countries, and did a collaboration with some Spanish artists on a song called Senorita. The song took off in Spain, so he travelled there to raise his profile on radio and TV.

The song was playing on the radio in Dubai by the time he got back. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Everything he has done since has been a hit and he is now starting to make more money from his music than his shops.

“The good thing about it is because I am very business-minded I have been able to turn the music into a business. I am being approached by every major brand out here and in Spain and Morocco that wants to endorse me in such a way that they will finance certain stuff if I will put their products in my videos or even wear them,” says Mr Ben Messaoud, who was a support act for the US rapper Drake’s concert at the weekend.

“Day to day I am getting new requests. Even today I got two or three different emails from different brands who want me to wear them. That’s the other side of music. There is the music and there are the endorsements that come along with it.”

He has now set up his own record label, Selfmade Entertainment DXB, and signed some producers and singers.

Eventually he plans to move to the background and support them and others but for now he is planning on releasing a new single and video and going on tour in Spain.

He remains involved in his chain of souvenir shops, and is now planning on using them to help promote his music career.

“Because I have seen that other companies are paying me to use their brands I am thinking about using my fame and my status at the moment to promote my own brand and start customising the products I already have into Two Tone products,” he says.

“Why not do it for myself as well?”

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